“The Time of Trial” A Daily Devotional on Luke 22:39-40

and-still-he-loved-them“Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’” —Luke 22:39-40

Since I was a child I have prayed the line from the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation.” Too often my “temptations” have been of the trivial sort, such as whether to eat that second cupcake. My mother liked to quote New Yorker writer Alexander Woollcott, “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”

But the newer translation of this line is “save us from the time of trial,” which echoes Jesus’s words here to the disciples.

So “the time of trial” is not about the daily small decisions we face, but about those moments when we are confronted with big choices that will change our lives and the lives of others.

“The time of trial” is a reckoning, a test of our humanity and moral courage. Could we be a Harriet Tubman and help runaway slaves? Could we be a Dietrich Bonhoeffer and resist the Nazis?

I’d like to think I could, but I know my own heart enough to know it is not a sure thing. And here is where I take some solace in knowing that Jesus himself wrestled with his calling, even as his disciples fell asleep when asked to watch with him one hour. And still he loved them.

Jesus knew he could not avoid his time of trial, but told the disciples to pray that they might be spared theirs.

Prayer: Save us from the time of trial, O God, but if it comes, give us the strength we need to be courageous and faithful.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for October 19, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)



“Cheering for Jesus!” A Daily Devotional

chering“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” —Hebrews 13:8

My friend John, an ophthalmologist and former congregant of mine, led several dozen trips to Ecuador on “eye missions.”

I went with him on a couple of them. Our team worked together with area churches, and one day he introduced me to a local pastor, who immediately invited me to preach at their Sunday evening service.

But that Sunday afternoon we had torrential rains that filled the streets with over a foot of water. I said to one of their church members, “I suppose the evening service will be cancelled?”

“Oh no, they’ll be there!”

And they were. The church was packed. We waded to get there.

My Spanish is pretty much limited to eye testing: “Otro oho!” So I employed our translator, Ira, to follow me line by line as I preached.

I started out with our differences: “I live in North America, and you live in South America.” “My congregation is very old and yours is very young.” And so forth.

Finally I said: “But despite our many differences we have something very important in common. We share faith in Jesus Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday and today and forever!’”

As I had been speaking, and Ira had been translating, they had been attentive and polite, but now the whole congregation rose to their feet and started clapping and cheering, and it went on for some time.

I was overcome with emotion, because I knew they weren’t cheering for me, and they weren’t cheering for Ira.

No, they were cheering for Jesus!

Prayer: O God, as we struggle day by day to follow your son, Jesus, give us hearts to cheer for him from time to time, for all he means to us, and all he has done for us.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for October 4, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

“Wolves and Lambs” Devotionals for Advent 2016

The United Church of Christ 2016 Advent Devotional, “Wolves and Lambs,” from The Stillspeaking Writers’ Group is now available. I have two devotionals in it.

Why “Wolves and Lambs”? Here’s a snippet by Quinn G. Caldwell from the Introduction:

We’re calling this year’s Advent Devotional “Wolves and Lambs” because we think that the image of a wolf and a lamb lying down together should be comforting, yes, even sweet.

But it should also be deeply unnerving.

As the first Christmas was. As this one will be, if Isaiah and God—and we—have anything to say about it.

You can order it here. You can see a sample preview here. Order soon. They only print so many and some years they have run out.

“The Better Angels of our Nature”

floyd“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”—Colossians 3:12

The items on this list of human qualities seem in short supply this election year. More frequently we have seen a continual lowering of the bar of both the tone and language of political discourse. There is a coarsening of public talk on the news and social media. Spend a few minutes on Twitter and you will inevitably come across someone spewing hatred, fear, and bigotry. Continue reading

Andover Newton Theological School and “The Great Transition”

lorain-etcandover-newton(For several days this past week I have been at my alma mater, Andover Newton Theological School, at a reunion for alums. I have seen some old friends and experienced some moving addresses and worship. The school is in the process of selling its historic Newton campus and de-camping  to New Haven. CT, to become an “embedded school” within Yale Divinity School. About 165 of us alums gathered to have one last time together on “the Hill” as it has been known. I was part of a closing service that moved from place to place where we reflected and prayed before retiring to the chapel for the Lord’s Supper. I prepared the following notes, but spoke ex tempore, but these words are close to what I said. We were in front of Sturtevent Hall, and I was charged with reflecting on all the dorms, the halls and houses where we lived while we were there.) Continue reading

Ordination: “I found Fluency but not roar”


Today is the forty-first anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. It is hard to believe that such time has gone by.

When I was a young man I became friends with the minister and poet Arnold Kenseth. I have written about him here. But this poem of his on ordination always seem to strike the right notes of humility and awe about what it means to be a minister.


I was anointed. A fire. Yes, I tell you.
An adazzle. His rare thump numbed me, awed
Me down to size and up to Him. Prayed, pawed
By the laying on of hands, myself anew
And aloft; I became lion to roar Him,
Eagle to lift Him, donkey to bear Him. I,
In that sunburst, languaged with seraphim,
Promised myself to be (Ha!) His emissary.

I did not, friends, manage much. True, I found
Fluency, but not roar. I have been sparrow;
And though jackass as most, I could not be least
Even for Him. He was scarlet and vast
And radiant and restful. He sang such sound
I heard the earth unloose itself from sorrow.

(Arnold Kenseth, Seasons and Sceneries, Windhover Press, 2002)

“Hinge Time”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1

northern-lightsSeptember always feels to me to be a new beginning. It marks time like a turning hinge, from summer to fall, from then to now, and from now to “what now?”

September’s cool weather reminds me of one memorable day back in 1982. We lived in Maine on a farm. We had a new baby, our first child, and we were in transition. I was about to take a new job and we would soon be moving to a new state. Continue reading